Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club

RBC Heritage

The stark contrast of Scheffler and Spieth at Hilton Head: An 18-Hole Live Diary


Andrew Redington

A live diary?" you ask.

Yes. This is what happens when an adenovirus won't go away, and in fact keeps getting worse—instead of going to Harbour Town, which is roughly 2.5 miles away, you sit inside your AirBnB, achy and tired despite a decent night's sleep, with a sore throat that makes even a simple sip of water feel like torture, and you fire up ESPN+ because it's Thursday of the RBC Heritage and Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth are playing together. (I promise that's the last time I complain about being sick, at least until lunch when hunger forces me to eat, which should feel approximately like swallowing razors.) It's a great pairing, and it's some compensation for being laid up, so let's go hole by hole with two of the most interesting men in the (golf) world.

Hole 1: Spieth and Scheffler present a sharp contrast here, which is what makes the pairing so enticing. One of them has gone full Alexander-the-Great on professional golf, conquering everything in sight up to and including the Masters, while the other missed his second-ever cut at Augusta and continues a bizarre feast-or-famine stretch of years that is very tempting to call post-prime. As in, maybe, at age 30, this is Spieth's new normal and we shouldn't expect much more.

But of course we will. Especially here, in Hilton Head, where he won in 2022 and lost in a playoff to Matt Fitzpatrick last year. And his uneven play isn't the only huge contrast with Scheffler; Spieth is more exciting, more flamboyant at least in his style of play, and in his career has captured hearts and minds in a way that no other American can claim. Considering how steady Scheffler comes across, and how erratic Spieth plays (and, yes, how they each look), it's wild to think that Scheffler is three years younger.

This is going to be fun. It's a beautiful day in Hilton Head, even for the house-bound, and both guys make standard pars on one.

Hole 2: Scheffler, who reaches the green in two and whose short game was beyond reproach at Augusta, makes a truly dismal chip that has even the announcers befuddled.

"I'm going to be honest, I don't know what to make of that," says Billy Kratzert.

He buries the birdie putt anyway, which only emphasizes how things have changed in a year...the guy can actually putt now. The rest of the Tour missed a big opportunity by not coming together to pay Phil Kenyon LIV money not to coach Scheffler. Now, hell is unleashed.

Spieth makes a Scheffler birdie—standard, stress-free. If I were Spieth's parents, I'd encourage him to hang around with Scottie more.. Clearly, he's a good influence.

Hole 3: The big question here is whether we're going to see a Masters hangover for Scottie. And we don't have to limit it to the Masters, either; his last four results are 1-1-t2-1 dating back to Bay Hill, but Augusta was clearly the climax, and he could definitely be forgiven for putting up a stinker here at Harbour Town. We may have the start of an answer here, as he puts his approach in the bunker and then hits his next off the hosel—probably one of the worst shots he's hit this year. Kratzert goes to the video to point out that his chip on number two came off the toe. Then he lips out his bogey putt, and it's a rare double for the big man. Something weird is happening here. Or, alternatively, something totally understandable.

Meanwhile, Spieth is on fire, pouring in an 8-footer for his second straight birdie.

Hole 4: We're officially on two separate watches: Jordan Spieth 59 watch, obviously—he just hit his tee shot on the par-3 to five feet—and Scottie Scheffler over par watch. The man hasn't shot worse than even all year, but if it's ever going to happen, this seems to be a likely place. His tee shot is mediocre, but he re-discovers his hands just in time to hit a perfect chip to gimme distance. Spieth's birdie putt is dead-center. Maybe it should be a 56 watch?

Hole 5: It's always quietly amazing watching this tournament right after the Masters. The players all talk about how small the greens are compared to Augusta, and that is indeed notable, but especially after this past year, it all just seems so easy. Which, granted, is the kind of thing that would have made Pete Dye see red, but there's just a sense of serenity here, like the course is there for the players to attack, as opposed to the vibe at Augusta.

Case in point: as they wait to hit their approach, Spieth tries to think of the name of a taco place in Austin ("Taco deli? that doesn't sound right."), and Scheffler offers "Taco Bell?" which gets a firm "stop!" from Spieth, at which Michael Greller comes up with "Torchy's." This is not good enough for Spieth, either. "This is going to bug me," he says, and makes a note to speak with someone named Amy.

I just cannot imagine this conversation happening at the Masters. Spieth pushes his approach but hits a lovely little mini-flop with backspin to set up yet another birdie, but Scheffler sends his eagle putt wayyyy past the hole and has to settle for a three-putt par. The hangover is real, folks.

Hole 6: Spieth is playing classic Hilton Head golf; on the shorter course, he's picking it apart, and his little fade off the tee with a wood is gorgeous, keeping him safely short of the bunker. His approach is even better, but he can't quite convert the left-breaking 10-footer, and it's par for both. Spieth is already tied for the tournament lead at 4 under.

Hole 7: Ned Michaels shouts out the Spanish moss on the trees, and says Jordan Spieth in all black looks like Johnny Cash. Michaels is on his A-game today, as both Spanish moss and Johnny Cash are great. Spieth pushes his tee shot on the par-3 way left, but it doesn't hit a tree and he gets a nice fluffy lie and gives himself a prayer at par. Scheffler has begun to look at least a little more like himself, and pours in an 18-footer for birdie to get back to even. Spieth's prayer goes unanswered as he hits a very poor putt that stops six inches short.

Here's where the aura of Scottie Scheffler is at right now: On a Slack I'm in, a friend watching just offered a straight-up bet taking Spieth over Scheffler for the whole tournament, and immediately had multiple takers. Again, Spieth held a five-shot lead at the time, and is at a course where he has been one of the two best players for two years in a row. And the Scheffler takers aren't even asking for odds! (Yes, it was very funny that after making the bet we had an instant two-shot swing.)

Hole 8: Easy pars for both, and I have ordered Five Guys. The strawberry milkshake is looming large in my imagination right now.

Hole 9: I love when Spieth drops some kind of quaint curse, and it was a delight to hear him yell "goll-lee that was just a yard from being perfect."

By the way, did you know Scottie Scheffler is pretty good with an iron? Laying up on a short par-4 looks like a great decision when you hit your approach to nine feet. But Spieth, who went for broke, hits yet another floppy pitch from off the green and gets even closer. Neither one can convert, though, and at the turn my grade for Spieth is an A-, and for Scheffler it's "who cares, he just won the Masters."

Hole 10: These guys made the turn in under two hours, which is wild. Say what you will about signature events, but that by itself is pretty phenomenal.

Less phenomenal? There are "mashed potatoes" guys on 10 tee; there is no punishment too severe for these people.

Two more tap-in pars, and I will have to reluctantly take Spieth off 59 watch since even making birdie on all eight remaining holes wouldn't get him there. Sad moment.

Hole 11: Ned Michaels just called out people who own alligators as pets, and I'm with him 100 percent. I like the tangents we get in these less urgent, more online Thursday broadcasts; there's something refreshing when the camera can just focus on an alligator for a second, and someone like Michaels can just talk about how messed up it is to have one in your house.

Spieth is starting to veer into Spieth-y territory—he just hit the cart path on the right with his first drive, then, on his provisional (which he didn't need), he did it again. His pitch-out is a nightmare, a drop to give himself club path relief ends up leaving him a disastrous lie, and then, because he's Spieth, he hits a ridiculous tightrope prayer through a bunch of trees and gives himself a shot at par. But he makes bogey, and it feels like this kind of hole is why he's 20th in the world instead of top 5.

Scheffler finds another bunker, and when his shot flies over the green, he slams his club into the sand. This is exhibit A for how absurdly competitive this guy is; he's pissed he's having a bad round, and nothing that came before is helping. What does help is that he buries his putt from the fringe; ridiculous save.

Hole 12: Ever had a stretch where nothing goes right, right down to the little stuff? My Five Guys order was delayed a third time, and is now canceled. Has anyone ever suffered like this before? Two more pars.

Hole 13: More Spieth-iness. Drive pulled left on the par-4, second shot to bunker, decent out, missed five-footer. And Scheffler is now a robotic par machine, with six straight...if he could buy a birdie putt, he'd be having a decent round.

Hole 14: Remember how I told you a few holes ago that Scheffler was a good iron player? Well, let me blow your mind for a second time: his short game is also spectacular. A nice up-and-down saves par on 14, and now that 59 watch is over, the last bit of competitive drama is all about whether Scheffler can preserve his streak of no rounds over par for the year.

Hole 15: It's not as simple as it might seem to pinpoint where Spieth goes wrong when he goes wrong. His SG: Approach numbers are his weakest of the three big categories, but it seems like a general lack of consistency is his biggest enemy, and it can strike anywhere. This hole is a great example—he set himself up with a three-footer for birdie on the relatively easy par-5, and his putt didn't touch the hole. Not even close. And he's a good putter! It just seems like a wicked wind sweeps through his mind at random times, and produces these bizarre mistakes that undermine him.

Hole 16: Ted Scott told Colin Swatton that he "has his work cut out for him" today, and for him to say that just shows how low the focus is and how complete the exhaustion is for Scheffler right now. And yet, look at him–he sticks his approach to four feet, and just like that he's 1 under. This is his C-game, at best, and he's completely fine. The standard is just outrageous right now.

Hole 17: The "Low Country" isn't necessarily the best name for an American region (I give that to "The Badlands"), but it's pretty great. So evocative. And "Calibogue Sound," the body of water beyond the course which you'll hear a bunch about this weekend because it's so much fun to say—cal-uh-BOGE-y—is another great name. I'm just going to say it: they need a better name for this island than "Hilton Head," which is pathetic.

The momentum has officially shifted beyond recognition. Spieth can't find anything but trouble, and every hole looks like a potential birdie for Scheffler. It happens again, with Spieth pushing his tee shot on the par-3 into the bunker and needing an up-and-down for par, hitting his iron to 15 feet and converting the birdie.

Hole 18: Standard pars for both, and it's Scheffler at 2 under and Spieth holding on at 1 under to finish the day.

If you want to contrast these two guys, and where they are in their careers right now, this was a great round for it, and the conclusion is simple: Fresh off a major victory and a career-defining stretch of wins, Scheffler looked tired and unfocused, while Spieth, playing on what has to be one his two or three favorite courses on Tour, came out red-hot and tied the lead after five holes. And how did it finish? With Scheffler finding the form that never seems to leave him for long, and Spieth stealing mediocrity from the jaws of success with a few bewildering mistakes. It's hard to imagine him making a sustained charge—the feeling just isn't there. But it's everywhere for Scheffler, who sits in 15th place and probably just got his worst round out of the way.